Volleyball goes 2-1 at Aurora Invite, defeated by Warhawks in conference

Shelby Howe, Sports Editor

The UW Oshkosh women’s volleyball team went 2-1 over last weekend in Aurora, Illinois, defeating both Aurora University, Ripon College and losing to Carthage College.

The two-day tournament began on Friday, Sept. 21 with a win for UWO when they beat Ripon College over four sets. This win is the Titans’ 16th-straight win over Ripon College.

Rachel Gardner led the team with 27 digs. Tina Elstner had 14 digs and 13 kills, contributing to her first double-double of the season. Renee Rush, Taylor Allen and Samantha Jaeke each contributed nine kills for the Titans.

Emma Kiekhofer had 22 assists and Rebecca Doughty had 12. Although the Red Hawks put up a good fight against the Titans, the win can be attested to both strong blocks and kills from a range of players.

Saturday results are split with a loss to Carthage College and a win against Aurora University. Both Carthage College and Aurora University participated in last year’s NCAA Division III Championship.

UWO lost to Carthage College with set scores of 25-12, 25-21 and 25-13. In the match against Carthage College, Elstner and Jaeke had seven kills apiece, while Kiekhofer had a team-leading 14 assists. Doughty had 10 assists and Gardner had 12 digs, contributing to her 14th double-digit effort of the season. Carthage led in the first and third match over the Titans, but fought for the lead in the second, ultimately taking the win over UWO in all three sets.

Head coach Jon Ellmann said the team’s mindset going into the game against Aurora could not have been better despite the previous loss to Carthage.

“Our expectation for every match is that we play clean, aggressive, high-energy ball,” Ellmann said. “We failed to do so against Carthage and lost without putting up much of a fight. With less than 40 minutes prior to our Aurora match, we were really pleased with how we were able to hit the reset button and play what was arguably one of our best matches of the season.”

UWO defeated Aurora University, 3-1, with set scores of 26-24, 25-18, 15-25 and 25-20. During the match against Aurora University, Gardner continued to lead the team in digs with 27 and Carly Lemke had 11 total kills and a team-leading five blocks.

Setting for UWO, Kiekhofer and Doughty had 37 and 33 assists, respectively. After winning the first and second match, the Titans lost the third, but came back in the fourth set, which was tied up six times before the Titans captured the win.

UWO winning this match ended Aurora’s home-game winning streak, which was at 21 games. UWO has won all four of its meetings with Aurora University since 1995.

Highlights of Saturday’s matches include Elstner surpassing 1,000 career kills, having 18 just in the match against Aurora University. Elstner is the first Titan in women’s volleyball to achieve this triumph in four years. Elstner now has 1,017 career kills.

Elstner and Gardner were also both picked to the six-member all-tournament team at Aurora University’s Invitational. Elstner produced a total of 38 kills and 31 digs in the Titans’ three matches over the weekend while Gardner had a total of 66 digs and 10 assists.

Gardner said she strives to be part of an all-tournament team and she achieved that last weekend.

“Being a part of an all-tournament team is always something that as an athlete I strive to do,” Gardner said. “I want to be on that team not only for myself but also for my teammates and coaches because I work so hard that when it all comes together and you get mentioned for it, it is a great feeling.”

The Titans continued conference play on Wednesday, Sept. 26 when they traveled to take on UW-Whitewater. UWO lost all three sets to the Warhawks with set scores of 25-18, 25-23 and 25-20. Gardner and Elstner both had 11 digs, while Jaeke and Allen each had six kills. UWO is now 0-2 in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and stands in sixth place.

Coach Ellmann said the team is consistently improving and focusing on the things they can control.

“Our first and primary concern is controlling what happens on our side of the net,” Ellmann said. “After that, if we can disrupt our opponent, we are doing everything we can to create an outcome that we can be proud of.”

Looking ahead, UWO hosts UW-Eau Claire on Friday, Sept. 28 in Kolf Sports Center and travels to St. Louis next Friday and Saturday (Oct. 5-6) for the Washington University Invitational.